Digital Ecosystems Are Here to Stay- Policy Should Step Up

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Sarthak Bhattarai
Lead of Content and Communications


The world has already entered an era in which digital ecosystems drive plenty avenues of our life. Our finances, our communication, our social interactions and soon, our health will be embedded to digital ecosystems and economies. Data is a currency everywhere, and arrives in droves from crowds, clouds, collaborators, competitions, and creators. This has created a web of interacting ecosystems which states have largely been slow in adapting to and regulating.

Public policies relating to digital technologies and platform economies should be improved. They should be made competent and robust as the participation and access of the general population in digital technologies will only increase in the future. The states should ensure provisions for improving access and adoption of tech through ‘fostering citizens consent through a digital social contract’ (UNDP, 2018) facilitated by policy introduction and reforms. This might involve collaboration and regulatory framework for institutions within and outside of the state authority; the private sector.

As in natural ecosystems, species of very different types and sizes compete for resources, and the question of who thrives comes down to complex interactions, not simple battles. Yet regulators must set the terms of engagement that will keep these non-comparable entities working in ways that benefit society.

(Chew, Derosby, Kelly, & Miracky, 2015)

Talking Policy

Features of Digital Ecosystems

The primary challenge in shaping policies for the promotion, regulation and setting compliance ground-rules for digital ecosystem platforms comes in understanding their primary features.

Digital Ecosystems work in connections with various bodies including creators of digital technologies, investors and businesses, financial institutions, the public and the government. This interconnectivity is one of the primary features that should put at the center of any policymaking.

Unlike most avenues of state regulation, an digital ecosystem requires works across multiple sector finance, digital tech, data privacy and surveillance. While many of these individual sectors might already be under regulation through existing individually be in place, creating a policy framework for all of them in one place proves challenging.

The government should therefore focus on monitoring the following challenges through policy:
• Personal Data Privacy
• Data Protection
• Cybersecurity
• Data Transfer Policies

Cross-Sectoral Policy Making

Traditional public administration’s expertise is mostly limited to a specific policy. Creating a framework for digital economy requires the breaking down of such boundaries within areas of policy, expertise and across areas of perceived or real institutional hierarchies working across sectors. Regulators, therefore, have the burden to find the right balance between protecting individuals’ privacy while also realizing the transformative rewards these ecosystems offer. They should be mindful to:
• Ensure that critically important networks, such as telecoms and banking systems, interconnect, and that platforms become more inclusive
• Mandate interoperability of digital ecosystems so that apps and services work across all systems, and are accessible by all,
• Develop smart security policies to protect critical national information infrastructures (CNII), and promote rapid information sharing,
• Create cross-agency (whole-of-government) frameworks (and agencies) for effective policies and regulations

Is anything happening?

The contribution of ICTs to GDP in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam is around (13%, 6% and 6%) respectively. On that, Malaysia already has laws and a Personal Data Privacy Commission to enforce digital privacy and data analytics by the burgeoning digital ecosystem companies within its ICT market. While in Hongkong, the government is welcoming to investors in said sectors, and encourages the industry by providing access to land for over 50 operational data centers – the industry’s projected revenue by 2020 is USD 1.39 billion. Similarly, in Thailand , the Digital Economy Master Plan will replace the existing IT 2020 ICT Master Plan which clearly defines the nation’s focus on the five main domain missions, namely
(i) hard infrastructure,
(ii) soft infrastructure,
(iii) service infrastructure,
(iv) digital economy acceleration, and
(v) digital workforce

As we move ahead into a world increasingly led by these ecosystems, this could be the rough guideline for our own government to build on as it goes forward into drafting policy frameworks to better facilitate the digital revolution. While Nepal has policies like the Health Technology Policy (2006), Information Technology Policy (2057 B.S.) and the National Information and Communication Technology Policy, (2015), further work remains to be done in facilitating digital ecosystems and platform economies.
It is very clear that the policy industry, here and everywhere, needs to adapt and get ready for what the world is calling the the fourth industrial revolution. The digital ecosystems are here to stay- and policies, should step up.


Chew, B., Derosby, D., Kelly, E., & Miracky, a. B. (2015). Regulating Ecosystems. Deloitte University Press.

(2018). Framing Policies for Digital Economy. NUS- UNDP.

Data Center Knowledge (1 Feb 2016), Hong Kong, China’s Data Center Gateway to the World
http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2016/02/01/hong-kong-data-center-market growing-thanks-to-chinaeffect/

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

Data Policy Digital Ecosystems Governance Public Policy